This post first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Feb. 16, 2020.

Back in 2017, Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee. Then he threatened a witness who was going to expose him. A jury deliberated for slightly more than seven hours before convicting him on all seven counts of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

On Feb. 10, career prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years. As Trump tried publicly to get him a lighter one, Attorney General William Barr was working behind the scenes to help. Former Attorney General Eric Holder called Barr’s direct intervention “unprecedented, wrong and ultimately dangerous.”

Why is Trump so concerned about Roger Stone and what is Barr’s role in the growing scandal?

The Facts

Aug. 6, 2015: The Trump campaign says it fired Stone, although Stone claims he quit. Either way, Stone remains a prominent Trump surrogate, maintaining regular contact with Trump and the campaign through the November 2016 election.

June 14, 2016: On the day that the DNC announces that its computer system has been hacked, Stone calls Trump.

July 18 or 19: Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen is in Trump’s office when Stone calls, according to Cohen’s later congressional testimony. Over Trump’s speakerphone, Stone tells Trump that he has just spoken by phone with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who lives in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Stone says to expect within a couple of days “a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” According to Cohen, Trump responds “to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’”

July 22: As the Democratic Convention begins, WikiLeaks releases close to 20,000 emails sent to or received by several top Democratic Party officials.

On or shortly after July 22, 2016: Paul Manafort directs his deputy, Rick Gates, to contact Stone for information about any additional releases and other damaging information WikiLeaks has regarding the Clinton campaign.

Late July 2016: During a ride with Trump to LaGuardia Airport, Gates and two secret service agents are in the car when Stone calls Trump on the phone. After Trump hangs up, he tells Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming. By late summer, the Trump campaign is planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and political messaging based on WikiLeaks’ possible release of Clinton emails.

July 31: Stone calls Trump and they speak for ten minutes.

Aug. 2:  Stone emails Manafort about the “word” coming from the “friend” in the embassy (Assange).

Aug. 3: Stone emails Manafort that he has an idea “to save Trump’s ass” and asks Manafort to call him.

Aug. 16: Stone emails Steve Bannon, who is about to be named the Trump campaign’s CEO. “Trump can still win — but time is running out,” Stone says, adding that he knows how to “win” this, but “it ain’t pretty.”

Sept. 21: On The Joe Piscopo Show, a local New York City radio program, Stone says that he spoke with Trump late the prior evening around 1:00 or 1:30 am.

Oct. 3: Stone messages Erik Prince, who is acting as an outside adviser to the Trump campaign. “Spoke to my friend in London last night,” Stone says, and a “payload” is coming.

Oct. 7: In a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence say that the US Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian government directed the hacking of both Clinton campaign and DNC emails.

Meanwhile, according to Jerome Corsi, Stone calls him on the morning on Oct. 7, claiming to have advance knowledge about the “Access Hollywood” tapes containing Trump’s vulgar comments about women. Stone says, “If you have any way to get to Assange to start dropping, tell him to start dumping.”

At 3:30 pm (ET) — 30 minutes after the release of the intelligence community’s warning about Russian election interference — the “Access Hollywood” tapes become public. At 4:30 pm (ET), WikiLeaks begins publishing stolen emails from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

Shortly after WikiLeaks’s release of the emails, an associate of Steve Bannon sends a text message to Stone that reads “well done.” In subsequent conversations with senior Trump campaign officials, Stone claims credit for having correctly predicted the October 7, 2016 release, according to his later indictment.

Nov. 2: Stone says he talks to Trump about once a week, on average, according to The Guardian.

The Lies

Nov. 20, 2018: In sworn answers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s written questions, Trump says that he has no recollection of discussing WikiLeaks with Roger Stone between June 1, 2016 and Nov. 8, 2016. (Mueller Rep. Vol. II, App. pp. C-18-19)

Jan. 31, 2019: During an interview with The New York Times, reporter Maggie Haberman asks Trump, “Did you ever talk to him [Stone] about WikiLeaks? Because that seemed —“

Trump: “No.”

Haberman: “You never had conversations with him.”

Trump: “No, I didn’t. I never did.”

Haberman: “Did you ever tell him to — or other people to get in touch with them?”

Trump: “Never did.”

The Fix

Dec. 10, 2019: Trump announces plans to nominate US Attorney for the District of Columbia Jesse Liu to become the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes. As the US attorney in DC, Liu had been managing several of special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutions and referrals, including those involving Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Rick Gates.

Jan. 30, 2020: Attorney General William Barr names Timothy Shea, one of his closest advisers, to replace Liu as interim US attorney for the District of Columbia.

Awaiting Senate confirmation of her new post, Liu becomes a senior counsel to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Feb. 10-11: Based on federal sentencing guidelines, career prosecutors in Shea’s office handling Stone’s case recommend a prison sentence of seven to nine years. Trump protests:

Hours later, the Justice Department says that its recommendation is “extreme” and “excessive” and that a new memorandum will outline its revised position. Shortly thereafter, the four federal attorneys who signed the original sentencing memorandum resign from the case. Jonathan Kravis — one of Stone’s prosecutors at trial — resigns from the Justice Department altogether.

As the day ends, Shea and Assistant US Attorney John Crabb Jr., who is newly assigned to the Stone case, file a revised memorandum acknowledging that the sentencing guideline factors set forth in the original memo were “perhaps technically applicable.” But the memo asserts that the previously proposed sentence of 87 to 108 months “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.”

The same day, Trump withdraws Liu’s nomination for the Treasury Department position and on Feb. 13, she resigns.

Feb. 12: Trump congratulates Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone case, “which perhaps should not even been brought”:

Feb. 13: After Barr lets Trump know some of what he plans to say, Barr tells ABC News that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job…”

America is getting a first-hand look at what Barr thinks his job is. In the Stone case, Trump’s tweets outed him. Autocrats can punish their enemies and reward their friends. With the help of savvy accomplices, the rule of law can die at their hands — before our very eyes.


Americans have seen this movie before. Trump hollowed out the Justice Department until he finally found his Roy Cohn in Attorney General William Barr. Now it’s on to the Departments of State and Defense.


On Feb. 10, distinguished federal career prosecutors recommended a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

Then in the middle of the night, Trump tweeted that the recommendation was “horrendous,” “unfair,” and a “miscarriage of justice.” As dawn broke over the nation’s capital, the DOJ was calling the recommendation “extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.” By the end of the day, all four prosecutors who had signed the original sentencing memorandum had withdrawn from the case. One had left the government altogether.

A new memo signed by the interim US attorney for the District of Columbia, Barr’s close adviser Timothy Shea, recanted the earlier recommendation and underlying analysis, saying that the originally proposed sentence “could be considered excessive and unwarranted….”

(In an upcoming post, I’ll have more on the intrigue surrounding Shea’s recent appointment to replace DC’s former US Attorney, Jesse Liu. It’s not pretty.)

Trump then congratulated Barr for “taking charge” of the case, “which perhaps should not even been brought.”

State and Defense Department Witnesses

Trump is also retaliating against State and Defense Department witnesses whose only sin was to defy his edict commanding silence in the face of congressional subpoenas. They testified about Trump’s wrongdoing. And they did it under oath — something Trump has yet to do.

It’s going to get worse. The cure won’t arrive until November.

JAN. 31, 2020: Senate Votes Against Calling Trial Witnesses

JAN. 31, 2020: DOJ Admits It Has Documents Relating Trump Role in Withholding US Aid to Ukraine

JAN. 31, 2020: Yovanovitch Retiring

FEB. 4, 2020: DOJ Finally Says It Will Refer Request to Investigate Prince for Review

FEB. 4, 2020: Giuliani Is Still Seeking Information on the Bidens

FEB. 5, 2020: Wray Testifies That Russians Continue to Engage in Malign Influence

FEB. 5, 2020: Trump Acquitted

FEB. 5, 2020: Sens. Grassley and Johnson Request Hunter Biden Records

FEB. 5, 2020: Barr Issues New Rules on Presidential Investigations

FEB. 7, 2020: Trump Fires Vindman and Sondland

FEB. 9-10, 2020: Giuliani’s Ukraine Info on Biden Going to Barr


Retaliation against a witness in an official proceeding is a federal crime.

Twelve witnesses testified publicly at the House impeachment hearings. Republicans had selected three of them. Nine other witnesses defied Trump’s edict to remain silent and stepped forward. At great personal and professional risk to themselves and their families, they provided consistent, undisputed, and damning testimony.

Where are they now?

#1: Fiona Hill, former deputy assistant to the President and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council, testified that she became alarmed about US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland’s “domestic political errand” for Trump. He was brokering a deal whereby Trump would meet with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky only if Zelensky announced an investigation into the Bidens and pursued the false Russian narrative that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

When Sondland described the quid pro quo to Hill and her boss, national security adviser John Bolton, Bolton ordered her to report the conversation to the deputy White House counsel: “You tell [John] Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal that Sondland and [acting chief of staff Mick] Mulvaney are cooking up.”

By the time Hill testified on Nov. 21, she had already resigned, effective July 19 — a few days before Trump’s infamous July 25 phone call with President Zelensky. She’s now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. 

#2: Marie Yovanovitch testified that while serving as US Ambassador to Ukraine, she was the victim of Rudy Giuliani’s smear campaign that led to her being recalled from that post in April 2019. In his July 25 call, Trump said Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.” During her public congressional appearance, Trump smeared her again. On Jan. 31, 2020, Yovanovitch retired from the foreign service.

#3: William B. Taylor Jr. replaced Yovanovitch as acting US Ambassador to Ukraine. He testified to extensive communications with Sondland and others about Trump’s evolving demands on President ZelenskyAt first, Trump withheld a White House meeting unless and until Zelensky announced investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 US presidential election. Then Trump added to his leverage by withholding essential US military aid. Taylor called the scheme “crazy.” On Jan. 1, 2020, he was recalled from his post ahead of schedule.

#4: Jennifer Williams was a foreign service officer and aide to Vice President Mike Pence. She testified to numerous interactions between Pence and Ukrainian officials during the months when Trump was demanding a quid pro quo. She was also present for the July 25 phone call, which she found “unusual” because it focused on Trump’s personal political agenda. On Jan. 30, 2020, Williams requested reassignment to the Defense Department.

 #5: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a career military officer and National Security Council member, testified that he was so alarmed about Trump’s July 25 call with President Zelensky that he went to his twin brother Yevgeny — also a career military officer and an ethics lawyer for the NSC. Together they immediately reported the call to deputy White House counsel John Eisenberg, who buried the transcript in a server reserved for the government’s most sensitive secrets. During his congressional appearance, the White House used its official Twitter account to attack Vindman.

On Feb. 7, 2020, two days after the Senate acquitted Trump, he relieved Vindman and his twin brother of their NSC duties. To emphasize the point, Trump accused Alexnder Vindman of insubordination for telling the truth, and security escorted him out of his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

#6: Gordon Sondland was a million-dollar donor to Trump’s inauguration festivities. Trump rewarded him with an ambassadorship to the EU. But at the House hearings, Sondland testified, “Was there a quid pro quo? …The answer is yes…. Everyone was in the loop.”

So on Feb. 7, 2020, Trump fired him, too. 

Still Standing — For Now

#7: Laura Cooper testified that Ukrainian officials knew about an issue with US aid to that country as early as July 25 — the date of Trump’s call. She remains deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. 

#8: David Holmes is still an official at the US embassy in Kiev. He testified to a telephone conversation between Sondland and Trump that occurred the day after Trump’s July 25 call with President Zelensky. Holmes overheard Trump asking Sondland, “Is he [Zelensky] going to do the investigation?” Sondland replied, “He’s gonna to do it. President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.”

#9: George Kent praised Vindman and said that Yovanovitch had been the victim of Giuliani’s “campaign of lies.” He remains deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Asian Affairs.

Above the Law

Within hours of Trump’s acquittal on Feb. 5, the White House issued a statement attacking Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saying, “Will there be no retribution?”

On Feb. 7 — the same day that President Trump fired the Vindmans and Sondland — Don Jr. tweeted:

The chilling effect is clear. But as profiles in courage emerge, their legacies endure.


On Feb. 3, Bill Moyers and I discussed Trump’s impeachment. You can read the transcript here:

Bill Moyers and Steve Harper on Lawyers, Liars and Trump on Trial



All Democrats in the Senate voted to see documents and hear witnesses that Trump had blocked from the House impeachment inquiry. Only two Republicans, Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), voted with them. The public has to wait for publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book to hear his story.

But damning excerpts have already leaked out. They reveal that Trump told Bolton about the quid pro quo: Trump would not release congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine until it opened investigations into former Vice President Joseph Biden and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Except for Romney and Collins, Republican senators didn’t care. And Prof. Alan Dershowitz was reinforcing that view. Even if Trump did everything that Bolton and House managers had accused him of doing, it wasn’t impeachable, Dershowitz claimed. Among constitutional law scholars, he seems to be alone in that view. Even the GOP’s constitutional law expert at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the articles of impeachment, Jonathan Turley, disagreed.

Hours after the Senate vote and pursuant to a prior court deadline, the Justice Department released redacted versions of documents showing that Trump was involved in withholding aid to Ukraine as early as June 24, 2019. Evidence will continue top seep out. None of it will be favorable to Trump. Otherwise, the public would have seen it long ago.

On Feb. 5, the Senate is poised to acquit him, but he will never be exonerated.

APR. 20, 2018: Parnas Dines with Trump and Select Donors

APR. 30, 2018: Trump Tells Parnas to ‘Take Out’ Yovanovitch

DEC. 9, 2019: Wray Says No Evidence of Ukraine Interference in 2016 Election

DEC. 30, 2019: Bolton Sends Manuscript of Book to White House for National Security Review

JAN. 21-22, 2020: Trump’s Impeachment Trial Continues with Debate on Motions

JAN. 22-24, 2020: Democrats Present Case Against Trump

JAN. 22, 2020: Trump: ‘We Have All the Material, They Don’t Have the Material’

JAN. 23-24, 2020: White House Tries to Block Portions of Bolton’s Book; Bolton’s Attorney Pushes Back

JAN. 25, 2020: Trump Legal Team Begins Presentation to Senate

JAN. 26, 2020: NYT Reports Excerpts from Bolton’s Book

JAN. 26, 2020: Treasury Dept. Lifts Sanctions on Deripaska’s Companies

JAN. 27-28, 2020: Trump Defense Continues and Concludes

JAN. 29, 2020: DOJ Now Willing to Accept Probation for Flynn

JAN. 30, 2020: Barr Replaces US Attorney for DC

JAN. 31, 2020: Senate Votes Against Calling Trial Witnesses

JAN. 31, 2020: DOJ Admits It Has Documents Relating Trump Role in Withholding US Aid to Ukraine


Another day brings another incriminating revelation from former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book. Each new disclosure puts an increasingly harsh spotlight on White House counsel Pat Cipollone — co-leader of Trump’s Senate trial defense team.

The Bolton Saga Continues

Nov. 9, 2019: CNN reports that Bolton has written a book about his time in the Trump White House. Publication would occur before the November 2020 election.

Nov. 21: One of Bolton’s top deputies and former member of the National Security Council, Fiona Hill, testifies publicly about a July 10 meeting with Bolton, NSC member Alexander Vindman, US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, and others. In that meeting, Sondland described what Hill calls Trump’s “political errand.”

It was a quid pro quo: Trump would not release congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine until it opened investigations into former Vice President Joseph Biden and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US presidential campaign. Immediately thereafter, Bolton directed Hill to inform the deputy White House counsel (who is also the NSC’s top lawyer) about Sondland’s statement.

“Tell John Eisenberg that I’m not part of whatever drug deal Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up,” Bolton told Hill.

Dec. 30: Bolton’s attorney sends a manuscript of Bolton’s book to the NSC for prepublication security review. The manuscript reveals Bolton’s first-hand account of the quid pro quo.

It also describes an Oval Office meeting in early May that includes Bolton, Cipollone, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Rudy Giuliani. According to Bolton, Trump told him to call newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make sure that Zelensky would meet with Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations Trump sought. Bolton never made the call. (After The New York Times later reported Bolton’s description of the meeting, Trump and Giuliani denied that it occurred.)

Jan. 6, 2020: Bolton announces his willingness to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

Jan. 23-24: The White House tries to block publication of Bolton’s book. In a letter to Bolton’s attorney, an NSC official writes that the manuscript cannot be published until supposedly classified information is deleted.

Bolton’s attorney responds in an email that Bolton may be called to testify at the Senate trial about information in the chapter of his manuscript dealing with Ukraine. Bolton’s attorney says that he does not believe it includes any information that “could reasonably be considered classified,” but asks the NSC to turn over the results of its review of that chapter as soon as possible.

Jan. 25: Under the leadership of Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, Trump’s defense team argues that there is no first-hand evidence of the quid pro quo. Cipollone’s deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura asserts, “Not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting, or anything else.”

Jan. 26: The New York Times reports that the manuscript of Bolton’s book reveals his first-hand knowledge of Trump’s quid pro quo.

Jan. 27: The Washington Post reports, “Cipollone has privately insisted to senators and allies that the White House did not know Bolton was going to make such an accusation in the book.”

Jan. 29: The New York Times reports, “The White House has acknowledged that National Security Council staff members reviewed the draft [of Bolton’s manuscript], and that they briefed the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone.”

But on the Senate floor that evening, Patrick Philbin, another deputy White House counsel, stumbled in response to a direct question on the timing of the White House’s knowledge of Bolton’s explosive claims:

“At some point… the manuscript had been submitted to the NSC… White House counsel was notified that it was there.” Then he said, “The NSC has released a statement explaining that it has not been reviewed by anyone outside NSC staff.”

Note Philbin’s use of the passive voice — “the White House counsel was notified” — but he doesn’t say by or to whom, or when. Then Philbin slides into reliance on the NSC statement that only NSC staff has “reviewed” it.

With respect to the explosive passages where Trump told Bolton that he would not release US aid until Ukraine gave him the investigations he wanted, Philbin went on to say, “No one from inside the White House or outside the White House told us publication of the book would be problematic for the president. We assumed Mr. Bolton was disgruntled and wouldn’t be saying a lot of nice things about the president, but no one told us anything like that.”

Trump’s Legal Team: Incompetent or Dishonest?

Long before his book arrived at the NSC, Bolton instructed Fiona Hill to notify deputy White House counsel John Eisenberg that he knew and disapproved of Trump’s Ukraine quid pro quo plan — and she did. Two weeks later, Trump made his infamous July 25 call to President Zelensky and Eisenberg put the transcript in a super-secret server.

By the time Cipollone and his team were addressing the Senate and Chief Justice John Roberts six months later, the White House’s NSC had been in possession of Bolton’s manuscript for almost a month. If Eisenberg didn’t inform his boss about the manuscript’s bombshell contents before the trial began, and if his boss didn’t ask about them, they’re both incompetent. If Eisenberg did tell his boss what was in Bolton’s book, his boss is dishonest.

His boss is Pat Cipollone.


[This is an updated version of a post that first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts early on Jan. 25, 2020. This update takes into account additional distortions, distractions, and diversions that Trump’s lawyers made during the impeachment trial later that morning. If you read the original post, you can skip down to the section that begins: “It Got Worse.”]

Never lie to a judge or jury. Every trial lawyer knows that cardinal rule of advocacy. But in their arguments on Jan. 21, Trump’s lawyers violated it. Repeatedly. With the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court presiding and the entire US Senate sitting as judge and jury.

It was only the beginning.


Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow led off.

Lie #1:The House did not afford Trump “due process”: “During the proceedings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, the president was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, the president was denied the right to access evidence, and the president was denied the right to have counsel present at hearings.”

Truth: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) invited Trump to participate in the hearings, even though he had no “due process” obligation to do so. White House counsel Pat Cipollone rejected the invitation in a lengthy screed that concluded, “[W]e do not intend to participate….”

Lie #2: The Mueller report found no collusion and no obstruction: “It came up empty on the issue of collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. In fact, the Mueller report — to the contrary of what these managers say today — came to the exact opposite conclusions of what they say.”

Truth: Mueller’s charge was limited to investigating crimes, so he expressly excluded any determination about “collusion” because it’s not a legal term. Mueller did find:

  • “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
  • “[T]he investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.”
  • “[T]he Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and [] the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

As for obstruction, Mueller expressly refused to exonerate Trump, even though Justice Department policy precluded him from indicting a sitting president. But he described 10 episodes of Trump’s possible obstruction and, for many of them, concluded that the evidence was sufficient to prove it.


White House counsel Pat Cipollone is paid by American taxpayers to represent the office of the president, not Trump personally. He and Trump have crossed the line separating those two jobs.

Lie #3: Continuing Sekulow’s theme that Trump did not receive “due process,” Cipollone asserted that Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee were not allowed entry into the secure room where private hearings occurred: “The proceedings took place in a basement of the House of Representatives. … Not even [House intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff’s Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF.”

Truth: Forty-eight Republican members of three House committees — including the Intelligence Committee — were permitted to attend the hearings in the SCIF. Subsequently released transcripts prove that many of those Republicans even questioned witnesses.

Lie #4: US aid to Ukraine was delivered “on time.”

Truth: Congress’ nonpartisan watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, concluded that Trump’s aid freeze broke a law — the Impoundment Control Act.

Trump did not lift the freeze in time to disburse all of it as required by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, requiring Congress to pass an extension of the deadline. “Had that provision not been included, then any unobligated funds as of September 30th would have expired,” according to OMB official Mark Sandy.

This list is not exhaustive. And it’s growing.

It Got Worse

Outside the Senate chamber on Jan. 22, Sekulow said, “Adam Schiff today talked about quid pro quo. Notice what’s not in the articles of impeachment: allegations or accusations of quid pro quo. That’s because they didn’t exist.” The White House then tweeted a video clip of Sekulow’s nonsense.

CNN’s Jake Tapper was among many who called him out: “That’s Jay Sekulow falsely stating in the articles of impeachment there are no allegations or accusations of quid pro quo.” Tapper continued, “It’s true that the words quid pro quo, ‘this for that,’ do not appear in the articles of impeachment. But they certainly do describe this for that.” Tapper then read from the portion of impeachment article one outlining Trump’s quid pro quoand said, “I am not a lawyer. But does that not describe a quid pro quoto the letter?”

Here’s the clip:

I am a lawyer and yes, Jake, it definitely does. But when Trump’s legal team opened its presentation on Saturday, Jan. 25, deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura spun a new “no quid pro quo” deception: There was no quid pro quo because “a presidential meeting took place on September 25 [at the United Nations] without the Ukrainian government announcing any investigations.”

CNN fact-checked that claim and found it misleading: “While an announcement of investigations never took place, it was planned and discussed between representatives of both the US and Ukraine. The plan was only halted after the withheld aid was released.” [Emphasis in original]

Even more to the point, after public testimony from other witnesses prompted US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland to revise his earlier private testimony for the second time, he declared, “Was there a quid pro quo?… The answer is yes.”

Likewise, Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted it publicly: “We do that all the time… Get over it.”

It’s no mystery why Trump blocked Mulvaney from testifying before the House and why Republicans in the Senate don’t want the world to hear him under oath during the trial.

What’s Next?

Trump’s legal team can continue infecting the proceedings and the body politic with whatever narrative they choose, regardless of its veracity. Among them is Russian propaganda that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. Sekulow repeated that baseless conspiracy theory, despite the statement of Trump’s own FBI Director Chris Wray, who said last month that “we have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election.”

Media outlets including CNN and AP are fact-checking claims. So is the House Intelligence Committee, which performed the herculean task in real time on Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, follow that feed:

But unless the Senate votes to call witnesses — as 70 percent of Americans favor — the House impeachment team won’t have an opportunity to respond in a way that would reach far more of the general public. And once spoken, a lie takes on a life of its own. As Jonathan Swift wrote more than two hundred years ago, “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”

Sometimes the purpose of a lie isn’t to get people to believe it. It’s to get people to doubt everything — including the truth.